Are Punitive Damages Available in Illinois Personal Injury Cases?

Are Punitive Damages Available in Illinois Personal Injury Cases?

Are Punitive Damages Available in Illinois Personal Injury Cases?

If you were injured in a car accident where the responsible party’s conduct was criminal or intentionally harmful, you might assume punitive damages are available in addition to compensation. However, this isn’t always the case. There are complicated issues at stake. At a consultation, knowledgeable auto accident lawyer in Chicago can explain how the law works in relation to your case and help you explore legal options. Call today to speak to our team at Saks, Robinson & Rittenberg, Ltd. 

Overview of Punitive Damages

In a personal injury case, victims may recover damages to compensate them for such losses as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Where the responsible party engaged in conduct that was particularly egregious, criminal, or outrageously reckless, an injured victim may also seek punitive damages. These damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer and deter others from similar conduct.

Illinois Law on Punitive Damages

The source of punitive damages in personal injury cases is the state’s jury instructions, which are directions read to jurors before they head off to deliberate about key issues. The instruction on punitive damages states that the jury may opt to award them in addition to compensatory damages where the responsible party’s actions were intentional, fraudulent, or willful and wanton. When determining whether to award punitive damages, and how much, jurors may consider such factors as:

  • The entirety of the defendant’s conduct;
  • How long the misconduct lasted;
  • Whether there is misconduct in the defendant’s past;
  • The actual and potential harm caused by the defendant; and,
  • How an award of punitive damages may deter other people from engaging in the conduct.

If successful in meeting the standards of the jury instructions, the victim may recover an exponentially larger award of damages. There is no cap on punitive damages in Illinois, so your total award may be much more than necessary to compensate you for your economic and non-economic losses. 

In the case of the Chicago woman killed by a drunk driver, these factors may not support a finding for punitive damages. She made a mistake, but there was no indication of willful and wanton conduct in hitting the victim. In addition, she called 911 to get medical help for the victim and remained on the scene, despite knowing that there would be consequences for DUI. 

Discuss Punitive Damages with a Skilled Personal Injury Attorney

While the recent accident involving DUI may not be enough to obtain punitive damages, these cases tend to be very fact-specific because of the factors jurors must weigh. Our experienced lawyers at Saks, Robinson & Rittenberg, Ltd. know what types of evidence will increase the likelihood of punitive damages, so please contact our Chicago office to schedule a consultation regarding your case.

If you have been injured in a personal injury or work-related accident, do not hesitate to contact our office at (312) 332-5400

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